The Dark Art of Spinning Reel Selection

You don't have to be in the dark when choosing the right spinning reel. Here are our tips.

how to choose a spinning reel
How To Choose A Spinning Reel - What To Look For

How To Choose A Spinning Reel

I have a love/hate relationship with spinning reels. I love how versatile they are, and I hate how many there are to choose from. There are so many factors to consider when choosing a reel, and it's easy to get overwhelmed. And when you boil it down it really comes down to personal preference, almost like choosing golf clubs.  I call it a Dark Art.  But in this blog post, I'm going to give you my top tips for choosing the right spinning reel for your needs.

Type of Reel

The first thing you need to decide is what type of reel you need. Are you fishing for small panfish or largemouth bass? Are you using live bait or artificial lures? The type of fish you're targeting will dictate the type of reel you need. If you're targeting large saltwater fish, you'll need a heavier-duty reel than if you're just fishing for trout in a creek.

The top spinning reel brands according to many anglers are Daiwa, Penn, Shimano, and Abu Garcia. All of these brands offer different models that suit the needs of various types of fishing, so it's important to choose the right one for the type of fishing you'll be doing. For instance, if you're planning on doing a lot of saltwater fishing, then you'll want to choose a reel that's designed for that specific type of fishing.

Shimano is a great choice for saltwater fishing, as their reels are specifically designed for that type of fishing and are built to withstand the harsh conditions found in saltwater environments. Penn and Daiwa are also popular choices

Gear Ratio

The gear ratio is the second most important factor to consider when selecting a spinning reel. The gear ratio determines how fast the reel's spool spins in relation to the handle. A higher gear ratio means the spool will spin faster, which is good for retrieving lures quickly. A lower gear ratio is better for 'jigging' baits up off the bottom or fighting large fish.

The top spinning reel brands according to many anglers are Daiwa, Penn, Shimano, and Abu Garcia.

Drag System

The drag system is one of the most important parts of a spinning reel..  It's what keeps the fish from breaking your line. It's important to choose a reel with a drag system that can be adjusted easily on-the-fly. You don't want a drag that's too loose or too tight; you want to be able to adjust it as needed to keep the fish hooked without breaking your line.   A good drag system can make the difference between landing a fish and losing it.

Ball Bearings

The number of ball bearings on a spinning reel is not necessarily an indicator of quality. A reel can have a dozen ball bearings and still perform poorly if the quality of the bearings is low. Similarly, a reel with just a few high-quality bearings can outperform one with many lower-quality bearings. It's important to look at  the overall quality of the reel, not just the number of ball bearings.


A spinning reel should feel comfortable and secure in your hands, with a smooth action that allows you to easily control your line. The drag system contributes to how it feels, as it should be smooth and consistent, providing enough resistance to keep your line from breaking while still allowing you to fight fish effectively. Pay attention to the overall balance of the reel as well – it should feel natural in your hands and not be overly top-heavy or bottom-heavy.  If you're going to be out fishing for a long day, you don't want a reel that feels like sandpaper on shag carpet.  It'll wear out your hands and arms faster if it's not easy to use.

With a little practice, you should be able to cast smoothly and accurately with a spinning reel that feels good in your hands.

The Last Cast

There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing a spinning reel, but if you take the time to find one that meets your specific needs, you'll be glad you did. With so many options on the market, it's easy to get overwhelmed, but if you know what type of fish you're targeting and what features are most important to you, finding the perfect spinning reel will be a breeze.

If you need a deeper review, tap the button and check out our guide to the best spinning reels under $100.

Cheers to the outdoors,

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